November 23 – December 13, 2018
Taiwan may be found in a difficult situation. If you’ve been in China before and you enter Taiwan, you will say, hey, it is actually China. No surprise, its official name is the Republic of China. People are Chinese, speak Chinese, food is Chinese… But hold on, We are not saying it should, or it should not be part of PRC. No politics here. It is not up to us to comment. Even locals are not probably united on this. On the other hand, the same way you could find this island Chinese, you can see that it has been separated from mainland China and opened to the world for a long time. People behave differently. They are much more polite to each other, makes no mess, speaks better English. It is handy to read and learn more about China’s not so far history and its development in the 20th century to understand what is behind.
Read more: Japan in a nutshell
Taiwan is the best place to meet Chinese culture on ease. Relatively small to make a big loop in two or three weeks. Very safe, clean, modern. With smiling and always helpful locals. Moderately expensive and, to many people’s surprise, with beautiful nature. Just easy rule to remember, the west coast is one neverending cluster of cities that (for westerners) are barely recognisable one from other. While the east is a tropical paradise. The middle is home to high mountains.
Our three weeks were not planned perfectly since we ended up spending a week on the west side going from city to city where we always spend two nights. Plus few extra nights in Taipei. Honestly, We are not duteous fans of big Asian cities. They are usually overcrowded, noisy, polluted, chaotic, lacking parks and historic buildings. In other words, we can recommend to go to and enjoy the east part of the country the most. There are plenty of things to do and see, or it is a perfect place to do nothing instead 🙂 From all parts we saw there, our favourite one was Taroko Gorge in the north-west part of the country.
Places we visited:
Taipei -> Hualien -> Taroko National park -> Taitung -> Kenting -> Kaohsiung -> Tainan -> Taichung -> Taipei
Taiwan is very safe, and locals are truly friendly to foreigners. One example for all. It happened to us while walking a remote road that taxi driver started to talk to us. We expected he wants to earn some money, but he was just curious about which country are we from, nothing else.
Quick, convenient, clean, modern, not so expensive. What else is needed?
We put it definitely in the Pros section since Chinese food is generally great. But as Taiwan could be considered foodie heaven, sometimes you may think you are on the other side. If you are not a meat lover, especially of inners or other speciality stuff, and you don’t speak Chinese, you may find yourself almost starving at some places. Not always there is a proper eatery opened in the evening (to have noodles and rice), and on popular night markets, there can be just stalls with weird skewers.
A number of temples, historical sites and famous museums can be overwhelming.
The best way to explore the country is in scooter’s saddle. However, it is not always straightforward, and in many cities, you will not be allowed to rent it. And if you would so, then it could be either expensive or just a small electric scooter or both. But there are exceptions as we realised in Kenting. We got a big scooter at a reasonable price for two days there. Since locals follow traffic rules, driving is easy.
Population density and crowds
Oh yes, Taiwan is on the top of every study of residents density per square km. As mentioned, the west coast is just one big city. It is contrasting with the east. Nevertheless, this part of the country can be occupied by local tourists or by buses with hordes of tourists from China.
The Chinese language is a “problem” in general if you cannot read their signs. But luckily for any traveller, there is always someone who speaks at least a little bit English.
Our costs for almost one month in Taiwan
Food is cheap, in general. We don’t know about proper restaurants in big cities; however, a meal in eateries can be 100 – 150 TWD per person (3-5 USD).
Budget accommodation can be found around 400 – 800 TWD (13-26 USD) per double room outside Taipei. Capital can be a little bit more expensive. But be careful about public holidays. Once we could not find anything below 1,200 TWD (40 USD) per night.
Transportation prices are reasonable. Public transport in cities is mostly 10 – 20 TWD (less than 1 USD) per ride. Midrange ride by slower train can be around 400 TWD (13 USD). Scooter rental was in our case 500 TWD (16 USD) per day.
Also, other prices will not ruin you. Entrance fees are more than reasonable. Count somewhere between 50 to max 350 TWD for special museums or sights (2-11 USD). However, many attractions are free. The only thing that can be considered more expensive is Taipei 101 (460 TWD / 15 USD with Klook discount). Cinema is roughly 300 TWD (10 USD).
In total, both of us, without flight tickets, insurance etc. for our 20 days in Taiwan, we spent 40,000 TWD = 1,300 USD. That makes daily average per person equal to 1,000 TWD = 32 USD.